Debate on the President's State of the Nation Address, 22 February 2002

Madam Speaker, President, Deputy President, Honourable members,

96 years ago the founding father of the ANC, Pixley Seme, speaking in New York said:

"The brighter day is rising upon Africa…Yes, the regeneration of Africa belongs to this new and powerful period. The regeneration of Africa means that a new and unique civilization is soon to be added to the world".

Sadly, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, neo-colonialism and the Cold War defeated Africa’s efforts for regeneration.

Today, we confidently proclaim the 21st century the African century. We do so because there is a new generation of African leaders who are willing to accept their responsibilities and leadership role to struggle for and to achieve an African revival.

The ANC’s January 8th statement on the occasion of the 90th anniversary calls on us "to ensure that the process of globalization does not result in the further all round widening of the gap between the rich developed North and the poor developing South…. Which would condemn billions of people to poverty…. This would be a certain recipe for the most catastrophic social upheavals engulfing the whole globe". Mr President, your visionary understanding of the challenges of the New World order is highly respected internationally and you have become a true champion of Africa and the South.

In September 2000, the world’s leaders who convened in New York for the historic United Nations Millennium Summit declared that they "will support the consolidation of democracy in Africa and assist Africans in their struggle for lasting peace, poverty eradication and sustainable development, thereby bringing Africa into the mainstream of the world economy".

This is the message, Mr President, you have been giving for many years. It is therefore important for you to ignore the suggestions from the opposition that you remain at home. These ignorama fail to see the dedication relations between developments in South Africa and the world.

The year 2002 is therefore one of the most challenging for South Africa’s foreign policy. Questions are often raised as to why South Africa is playing such a prominent role in international affairs? South Africa, by the very nature of its strong visionary leadership, its inept Democratic Alliance, its successful democracy, the strength of its economic fundamentals and technological base, and its efforts to address the inequalities and injustices of the past, is in an unique position to contribute positively to the reforming and shaping of the new global order, especially ending global inequality, poverty and the marginalisation of Africa.

Madame Speaker,

The greatest challenge facing us is the implementation of NEPAD. NEPAD is our hope to eradicate Africa’s underdevelopment and poverty. It is a pledge by African leaders, based on a common vision and a firm and shared conviction that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy and body politic. The Initiative is anchored on the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion in a globalising world. It is a call for a new relationship of partnership between Africa and the international community to overcome the development chasm. The partnership is to be founded on a realisation of common interest, benefit and equality.

"NEPAD recognises that there have been attempts in the past to set out continent wide-development programmes. For a variety of reasons, both internal and external, including questionable leadership and ownership by Africans themselves, these have been less than successful. However, today there is a new set of circumstances, which lend themselves to integrated practical implementation."

President Mbeki said that: "We speak here of a realistic Programme of Action and not a mere wish list. As we have taken these decisions, we have also made the commitment that we will ourselves, as African, ensure that we discharge our own responsibilities to implement what we have committed ourselves to implement. In our actions, we will be guided by the principle – nothing is done until it is done!"

I am delighted to report that good progress has been made in developing and finalising the NEPAD Strategic Framework Document.

The critical phase of implementation has now begun. The 15-member Task Force for the implementation of NEPAD established five task teams to urgently identify and prepare specific implementable projects and programmes. The five identified priority areas of the NEPAD Programme of Action are:

Capacity building on peace and security;
Economic and corporate governance;
Banking and the financial sector;
Regional infrastructural projects;
Agricultural development and market access for African products.

The five priority areas do no exclude overarching issues such as debt reduction, communicable diseases, capacity building and ICT.

These priority areas hold tremendous opportunities for South African business and civil society to become involved in the implementation process. The South African Government strongly welcomes their participation.

It is often stated that the crisis situation in Zimbabwe is the litmus test for the success of NEPAD. We strongly disagree with the threats that there should be collective punishment, against all in Africa because of the developments in any one country.

The meeting this week of high-level representatives of the G8 countries and members of the Implementation Team will ensure that our detailed and concrete preparations for the G8 Summit in Canada in June is on course.

We also look forward to the visit of the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Chretien, who is visiting six African countries including South Africa, to discuss NEAPD in preparation for the G8 Summit.

Madame Speaker

To achieve the objectives of NEPAD we need strong institutions. We are therefore proud that in July we will host the first session of the AU, a continuation of the OAU which is aimed at consolidating the unity of African states in order to place Africa in a better position to take advantage of the benefits flowing from globalisation and, simultaneously, to be able collectively to withstand the negative consequences of this process. The transition to the AU reflects the continuation of Africa’s own resolve to deal with the legacy of colonialism, and underdevelopment and focus on meeting the human basic needs of its people.

Our immediate objectives will be to put in place the core structures of the AU. These are the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government, the Executive Council of Ministers, the Permanent Representative Committee of Ambassadors, and the Commission that will be providing the secretariat services of the Union. We are currently negotiating the Rules of Procedure governing the functioning of these structures and we aim to ensure that these structures meet with the goals and ideals of the African Union.

In addition, we are negotiating the re-structuring of the Central Organ of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, to empower this organ to pro-actively fulfil its mandate of conflict prevention, management and resolution on the continent. In particular, this Mechanism should be provided with the means to fulfil its primary objective, and the anticipation and prevention of conflicts.

Apart from the core organs which will all be housed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, South Africa needs to decide which one of the other organs, if any, we may want to host.

Madame Speaker

We will also be hosting the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September 2002. It will be the largest international conference ever with approximately 65 000 people attending.

The main goals for the WSSD are the reinvigoration, at the highest political level, of the global commitment to Sustainable Development, the forging of a North – South partnership to promote Sustainable Development, and the acceleration of the implementation of Agenda 21.

Three broad themes reflect the essential prerequisites for moving towards Sustainable Development, namely alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable livelihoods, realising sustainable consumption and production, and protecting the integrity of life-supporting ecosystems.

Some of the important issues for the WSSD include:

Establishing the link between global security and development, and strengthening the international commitment to global peace and security and the need for increased multilateralism;
Strengthening the system of international governance for Sustainable Development by developing smart partnerships aimed at poverty eradication;
Ensuring that all stakeholders are committed to the improved implementation of Agenda 21;
New issues to be addressed include the biotechnology revolution, combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other pandemic diseases, as well as the explosive growth in information and communication technologies.

The Johannesburg Summit should mark a turning point by putting people at the center of sustainable development.

The question frequently asked is why is South Africa the favoured destination for so many major international conferences.

The President, in his State of the Nation Address said: "The nations of the world elected to come to our country because they understand and appreciate what we have done in the last seven-and-half years to address within our own borders precisely the same questions that constitute the global agenda."

Madame Speaker

On September 11th the world was shocked by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The South African Government immediately and unequivocally condemned these acts of terrorism, We have committed ourselves to co-operate against all forms of terrorism under the aegis of the UN.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations speaking in the UN General Assembly:

"Let us remember that none of the issues that faced us on 10 September has become less urgent. The number of people living on less than one dollar a day has not decreased. The numbers dying of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other preventable diseases have not decreased. The factors that cause the desert to advance, bio diversity to be lost, and the Earth’s atmosphere to warm have not decreased. And in may parts of the world afflicted by the scourge of war, innocent people have not ceased being murdered, mutilated, or dragged or driven from their homes.


In short the agenda for peace, development and human rights is no less pressing. If anything, it has taken on a new urgency. Seldom has the danger of division within the human family, and the need to resist that danger, been more clearly understood.

We face two possible futures: a mutually destructive clash between so-called "civilizations" based on the exaggeration of religious and cultural differences: or a global community, respecting diversity and rooted in universal values. The latter must be our choice – but we can achieve it only if we bring real hope to the billions now trapped in poverty, conflict and disease".

The Secretary-General’s statement confirmed South Africa’s long held view that in order to defeat terrorism we must adopt a holistic approach by dealing with the root causes, inter alia, conflicts and underdevelopment. There can be no "good terrorists" and "bad terrorists".

In this regard conflict prevention, management and resolution on the African continent will remain a key foreign policy objective of the South African Government. There can be progress and development in Africa if there is peace, democracy and stability.

I am happy to note that much progress has been made in finding a long-lasting solution to the conflict in the DRC. We are honoured that the ICD will start its proceedings in South Africa on the 25th of February. It is estimated that over 300 Congolese will gather in South Africa to map out their future. This dialogue is expected to last 45 days. We will do everything possible to ensure that the ICD is a success.

In Burundi, former President Mandela and Deputy President Zuma’s efforts led to the groundbreaking signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement by nineteen organisations and groups, excluding the two armed groups. Deputy President Zuma and President Bongo of Gabon have continued to meet with the armed groups in an effort to achieve a cease-fire agreement. Unfortunately, there has been very slow progress. However, the interim government has been established and is beginning to function.

All South Africans can be proud that the South African National Defence Force is providing VIP protection for members of the interim government. The SANDF has done a sterling task and should be highly commended. It is envisaged that South Africans will, eventually, train Burundians to take over the VIP protection functions. The proposed regional Summit, involving all stakeholders, which will take place during the first half of this year, should consolidate the peace process in Burundi.

South African troops have also been making outstanding contributions to the peacekeeping operation in the Ethiopia-Eritrea situation, in the DRC where 98 South Africans are deployed as part of MONUC, as well as UN-sponsored de-mining operations in the Horn of Africa.

With regard to Zimbabwe, unlike Tony Leon’s selected democratic outpourings the South African Government is committed to continue assisting the people of Zimbabwe in exercising their political will in a conducive environment for the upcoming elections, as well as to assist to ensure peace, stability and economic recovery after the elections. It is in the interest of all Zimbabweans that the presidential election in Zimbabwe is free and fair.

Towards the realisation of this goal, Government will be sending a multi-sectoral South African Observer Mission (SAOM) of fifty persons, under the leadership of Dr Motsuenyane. The fifty persons will be drawn from trade unions, big business, black business, judiciary, academia, agriculture and religious organisations. The observers will be deployed in three phases, commencing on 13 February 2002 and the last on 3 March 2002. A 15-person multi-party Parliamentary Team will depart on 20 February 2002. We will also have to consider our participation in the AU, Commonwealth and the ACP-EU observer teams.

The reports of the attacks on the Daily News and the Daily Press is a matter of concern and we urge the police to investigate these attacks and ensure that justice is done.

Madame Speaker,

South Africa was appointed by the Organization of African Unity as the Co-ordinator of the Countries of the Region in June 1998 to address the constitutional and secessionist crisis that had arisen in the Comoros.

South Africa has made financial contributions to the amount of US$1.1 million towards the implementation of the 17 February 2001 Fomboni All-Party Framework Agreement, electoral assistance, development of the health sector and humanitarian assistance. South Africa also provided SANDF technical assistance.

The Presidential elections are scheduled for 14 April 2002. The Independent Electoral Commission is currently investigating possible areas of assistance and co-operation with the relevant Comorian authorities.

Madam Speaker,

One of the conflicts that has given rise to the worst forms of terrorism is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We remain deeply concerned about the continuing occupation of Palestinian territory, the excessive use of force, the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, the wanton destruction of property, the house arrest of President Arafat and the deliberate destruction of the Palestinian authorities. Such actions create a fertile environment for suicide bombers and those opposed to peace.

Israelis and Palestinians have to unconditionally engage with each other as equal partners in a joint effort to reach a mutually acceptable outcome in terms of the UN Security Council Resolutions 224 and 338 as well as other UN resolutions.

South Africa will make a particular effort to create and exploit opportunities to strengthen the pro-peace lobbies, even beyond Israel and Palestine.

The Spier Presidential Peace Retreat (PPR) was an outstanding success and has set an example which is being followed by other nations in bringing Israeli and Palestinian peace activists together. The Spier PPR has also inspired pro-peace elements in the region to take public positions which challenge the logic of confrontation.

We welcome the recent statement of the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency that it would be a disaster for Israel to seek a military victory.

We welcome the decision by the European Union to officially recognise an independent Palestinian state.

We are also encouraged by a recent poll which showed that 47% of Israelis believe that a peace agreement should be concluded.

We will continue to support all those genuinely committed to peace. This is in the interests of Palestinians and Israelis.

Conclusion

In this year of the volunteer we will intensify all our efforts to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in our continent.

The challenges are many but we are inspired by the slogans: Mayibuye Afrika. Vuk’ Uzenzele [arise and act].


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